THE NIGHT OF RECORD
So the summer days passed and winter set in once more. Though more satisfied, Foster-father felt still that safety depended on King Humayon’s success or failure.
So, whenever one of the long files of camels tied together in a string, head-and-tail, showed on the hill road above Kandahar, he was off to the halting-place outside the city to see what news it had collected in its march from Hindustan; for caravans in those days were the postmen.
And sometimes he heard one thing, and sometimes another, but as often as not he returned as he went, without any remedy but patience.
“Anyhow the child grows in stature and strength,” Head-nurse would say, “and our present lodging is better than our last!”
Which was true; for the old house of three stories which they now inhabited was full of little rooms leading one out of the other like a rabbit-warren. And if there was no furniture in them, so much the better for the children’s games of “I espy” and “Touch who Touch can.”
For Bija and Mirak played such games with infinite zest. As Head-nurse had foretold, the coming of his little sister had been an immense gain to the Heir-to-Empire; not only in manners, but also in his outlook upon life. For Princess Bakshee Bani Begum was a very determined small person, who did not in the least see why the elder sister of a boy should give way to him in all things, simply because he was Heir-to-Empire.
“I won’t have it, Mirak,” she would say with a stamp of her little foot; “you shall not break my doll’s head just because you want to.”
So Prince Akbar, who was full of sound common sense, began to think she had reason on her side; and this was of great advantage to him, for with Head-nurse, and Foster-mother and the others, he stood a great chance of being spoiled.
And after a time he became quite devoted to the prim little maid, who, for all her primness in general, could be as wild as a hawk on occasion.
And out of that arose an incident which, unfortunately, turned Princess Sultanum against the little lad and so endangered his safety. It came about in this way. Prince Askurry’s son Yakoob was, as has been said, three years older than Akbar, a lanky, rather weedy lad-ling of nearly six. Now Prince Askurry was himself a noted wrestler, and was determined his son should be one also. So he had the boy carefully taught, and set a good deal of store by the quickness of the little fellow in learning the grips, and how to trip up an adversary. On high days and holidays, indeed, Prince Askurry and his wife used often to amuse themselves by seeing the discomfiture of other less experienced children who were set up to compete with the young wrestler. Baby Akbar had been one of these, and being so much younger, he had always gone down before Yakoob’s skill; but he had always taken his overthrow in good part, though Head-nurse had felt as if she could not